One thing I admire about the Nintendo Switch is its portability. Taking the system and a great catalog of games with you wherever you go is a big selling point. But sometimes I wish it had a bigger screen, and I imagine I’m not the only Switch owner who thinks so.
Although each Switch model has a relatively large field of view, eye strain can become an issue when the system is undocked. For people who suffer from astigmatism like me, squinting can get in the way of extended gaming sessions. It’s difficult to play at best hyperparasite – or anything with small text and/or assets – away from the TV.
Up-Switch’s Orion wearable monitor aims to give Switch owners more choice when playing in handheld mode. At first glance, the 11.6-inch display looks impressive in size and scope, and offers a decent display upgrade. (Disclosure: There are other wearable screens on the market that are compatible with the Switch and are larger, but I have not used or reviewed them).
Retailing for a whopping $249.99 — $50 less than the base Switch, $100 less than the OLED, and $50 more than the Lite — the Orion is an expensive prospect, especially when Peripheral device marketed primarily as an accessory rather than a necessity. To be fair at this price point, the screen is also compatible with Xbox and PlayStation platforms, as well as phones, tablets and computers, so there are multiple use cases at play here. Regardless, such a hefty investment will likely put some off.
Image by GameSkinny
The Orion comes standard with a soft drawstring carrying case that protects the screen from superficial scratches and scuffs when not in use. Of course, that doesn’t protect the screen if it hits hard objects, so you might want to invest in something more durable if you plan to take it to the streets or do a lot of moving around in your living space.
There’s the 11.6-inch anti-glare IPS screen itself, which is a large if understated affair, with a matte black plastic border and Joy-Con rails on either side. Additionally, there are two ergonomic grips that you can pop the JoyCons into if the screen’s built-in slots don’t give you the right feel. I found the grips better distributed the weight of the screen and switch combo and created more room between my wrists and the power port on the left.
On the top are several small buttons – also styled after the Switch’s undersized control buttons – for power, switching inputs and navigating menus, and/or increasing or decreasing the volume and/or increasing or decreasing the volume the brightness. Confusing? Yes.
I write it that way because that phrase is about as enigmatic as the two multifunction buttons to the right of the power button. In the OSD, as expected, they move between the options (nothing special), but outside of that they sometimes increase and decrease the screen brightness, while sometimes increase and decrease the volume. This has happened to me both in and out of games. It’s frustrating not knowing what you’re going to get, and there didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason as to which feature worked when.
There are two small speakers on the back of the screen, one on the top right and one on the top left, both of which produce decent, if tinny, sound. Underneath is a sturdy compartment with a locking mechanism that houses the Switch itself, which plugs into a USB-C port like the Switch dock. On the right side you’ll find a stand for tabletop mode, and next to it is a 3.5mm headphone jack. On the left is the HDMI input and the display’s power connections.
One of the most important things to know about the Orion is that it doesn’t come with its own power supply, nor is a branded up switch option sold separately. Instead, you’ll need to rely on the Switch’s compatible power supply, purchase a secondary Switch/third-party power supply, or purchase a compatible USB battery pack that attaches to the back of the screen with the included Velcro straps. Furthermore, this latter option is the only way to be completely untethered and mobile with the Orion; Otherwise you are always connected to an outlet.
Problematically, the power connector is too close to the left Joy-Con when the ergonomic grips are detached. The placement makes it very easy to accidentally hit the link with your palm. Consequently, you will likely stress the cord, plug, and port, possibly damaging them over time. The ergonomic grips help a bit, but it’s still a precarious placement.
Additionally, I didn’t find the battery pack option even ideal for moderately long gaming sessions, although that’s probably a symptom of my puny battery. My 10,400mAh PNY power supply gave me about 2 hours of playtime on a 100% charge before the screen turned off mid-session; Once power is removed, the screen will turn off immediately, but your Switch will not. So opt for something more powerful – say in the 40,000mAh range – if you’re hoping to stay untethered more often.
Whichever power option you choose, they all power the screen and charge the Switch at the same time, perhaps a double-edged sword on the front of the battery pack.
Image by GameSkinny
The Orion’s IPS screen outputs at 1366 x 768, and in general things look decent, if a bit washed out. Switch OLED owners will notice the biggest difference in visual quality across the board; Colors just aren’t as clear and more brightness can affect overall image fidelity, all things being equal.
Not to mention the downgrade you get when you plug the Up Switch into a PS5 or Xbox Series X|S. It’s nice to have a second screen when the TV is in use, but the loss of quality isn’t always worth it depending on the title. To be fair, I wasn’t expecting the screen to reproduce OLED colors or 4K HDR graphics, but something with a slightly higher resolution and higher contrast and sharper images would add value.
The onboard OSD offers some brightness, contrast and picture mode presets, and there are options to adjust the levels as closely as possible to your liking. Still, these choices are limited and don’t offer far-reaching options that drastically change the initial quality. Additionally, the OSD is awkward to navigate.
The navigation buttons are unintuitive and lead to annoying frustration when you want to make adjustments. After two months of use I’m still making mistakes, often going backwards through the menus or even closing the OSD altogether.
Up-Switch Orion Review – The Verdict
Image by GameSkinny
- A larger screen minimizes squinting and eye strain.
- Reduces glare, especially over the Switch OLED screen.
- Nice upgrade to the Switch’s tabletop capabilities.
- Detachable ergonomic handles shift the screen and change weight well.
- Works with PC, mobile devices and PlayStation and Xbox platforms.
- Outputs at 1366 x 768 – just barely HD.
- Produces washed out colors with few OSD options.
- The screen only works when plugged in or with a battery pack.
- Does not come with its own power supply or battery pack.
- So-so speakers feel like a downgrade from the stock Switch speakers.
While I enjoy playing the Switch on a bigger screen, especially in tabletop mode with a pro controller, it’s difficult to unreservedly recommend the Orion for the average gamer.
Aside from getting a few inches of screen real estate, a sturdier stand, and more protection for the undocked console, there’s not much improvement elsewhere for an additional $249.99. And while the Orion is technically wearable, it tries incredibly hard not to be, which ultimately undermines its main selling point.
[Note: Up-Switch provided the Orion hardware used for this review. Featured image via Up-Switch.]